Hiring good employees is a challenge for any business, but for field services, in particular, there’s an added level of stress that comes with it.
After all, it’s no secret that the industry at large has been struggling both with hiring new employees and preventing existing ones from quitting.
"[Experienced engineers] are leaving and are not being replaced fast enough by Millennials.” - Field Technologies Online
How to keep employees from quitting their jobs—as well as stop them from leaving the industry altogether—is a problem that fire & security, plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and other field service businesses are all seeking to help solve.
The good news, thankfully, is that there are more than a few things your business can do to keep employees from quitting and even encourage new people to join, too.
Let’s take a look at them:
- Create a staff retention plan to keep employees from quitting
- Have an open discussion with your employees
- Ask your employees to give feedback
- Provide valuable training opportunities
- Create a workplace that feels good to work in
1. Create a staff retention plan to keep employees from quitting
No doubt you created a plan for hiring new employees.
In it, you likely outlined a number of specific steps that were designed to help bring that new member of staff onboard: From the job listing, to the training they’d need to undertake, to the equipment they require to do their jobs, and more.
What too few businesses have though, is a plan that’s designed to help keep them keep their employees around.
Once they get an employee on board, too many leave them to run on 'autopilot' too soon and expect their staff to work tirelessly, fuelled only by coffee and money for motivation.
Sure, the initial excitement of a new role can keep them going, but as they settle into their routines and learn the ropes, your employees will need more to both incentivise them to work hard and motivate them to stay long-term.
That’s where having a written employee retention plan comes in handy. It can make a huge difference in your efforts to keep employees from quitting.
Why is that exactly?
Well, as Workable reports, there’s a literal cost to losing an employee:
“Each employee replacement costs about 6 to 9 months’ salary, considering recruiting, onboarding and training.”
The benefits of having an employee retention plan are:
- It’s both financially savvy but mentally beneficial! Losing a senior, experienced employee can negatively impact the productivity of the team who stay. What’s more, there can be a knock-on effect: when an employee leaves, others may be tempted to look elsewhere and start comparing their current job to what’s on the market.
- It demonstrates your commitment to your employees. It’s something that can be physically shared with senior managers and staff to ensure that, collectively, everyone is on the same page and can take the right action when it’s needed.
- It gives the concept of staff retention more weight, making it something to think about in advance and prepare well for, rather than leaving it to be forgotten as an afterthought when it’s already too late to make a positive impact.
With a plan, everyone can collectively strive towards making your business a fantastic place to work. Then, when concerns do arise, there’s time and space to take action and follow through with specific steps that will help to keep employees from quitting.
How do you write an employee retention plan?
In your plan, you might detail how your business will recognise and reward employees for exceptional work. You might also make it clear how promotions work.
When someone does raise concerns, the plan could feature a series of questions and activities that help, such as checking in to speak with the employee as to why they’re dissatisfied, or if there are steps you can take to identify pressure points that could be impacting your employee’s productivity and happiness.
After all, it's only by asking “for frequent feedback [can you] make sure that these opportunities are perceived as being relevant and useful” for your staff, too. - Achievers.
With this sort of feedback loop in place, you stand a much better chance of effectively tackling and preventing the problem of employees from quitting.
Below, you’ll find a variety of ideas you can implement to help build out your own retention strategy; it’s a great way to answer the question: “how to stop employees from quitting”.
2. Have an open discussion with your employees
If you want to keep your employees from quitting, then you need to communicate with them.
“Study after study confirms that people have a deep desire to feel they're succeeding and that their talents and capabilities are being used in a way that makes a difference to the business. When people sense their actions are fulfilling this desire, they begin to develop a sense of belonging and a feeling that your company is their company”. - Entrepreneur
Creating an environment that encourages communication & collaboration is a surefire way to help your engineers and other essential members of staff feel connected and valued. When employees feel genuinely valued, they’re far less likely to consider quitting.
A great way to do this is to share information that highlights the company’s successes, the direction it’s heading in, and yes: even share failures.
By doing this, you’re creating an atmosphere that’s more inclusive and honest.
This is a great way for everyone to see what’s happening and feel involved, ensuring they feel like they’ve contributed to the success and are committed to fixing the failures.
Creating a more open dialogue is as easy as sharing a simple report that shows staff:
- The number of jobs they’re doing per week
- Who’s got the best driving record
- Feedback (written and verbal) from your customers.
- The success of recent sales activities.
- Recent sales performance.
There’s no need to go into excessive detail, but what you don’t want is to have employees who feel siloed and lonely, or like they’re not making an impact. By sharing information, you’re less likely to isolate them, which can be a driving force for staff wanting to quit.
In addition, instead of offering up feedback at random times, or only at annual performance reviews (if you don’t do these, it’s worth considering), then finding a way to share concrete results with your staff on a regular basis could still boost an individual employee’s motivation.
The Harvard Business Review makes it clear that even if employees don’t need all of the information above, being able to see a summary will help them feel engaged and motivated.
3. Ask for their opinions
If you’re wondering how to keep employees from quitting, it will also help if you allow them to share their opinions.
Your engineers, for instance, deal with customers directly. This makes them, more than any other member of staff, best suited to give feedback that can improve how your business interacts with them in the field. For example, an engineer can easily notice customers being frustrated because they hadn’t been notified of the service window.
If they can share their experiences and see you at least considering their suggestions, they’ll feel more valued and may even become more invested in their work as they strive to help you create amazing customer journeys.
Of course, not everyone will want to be the centre of attention when it comes to giving feedback—say, in a team meeting—so it can help to offer staff a variety of ways to give their views, including privately. For instance, as we suggested above, you might create a monthly report that gives everyone a simple but informative overview of how things are going, or have a meeting (virtual or in-person) that does the same. In this meeting, you can also highlight insights from your staff—mentioned anonymously—but which acknowledges that management is listening.
Strategies like this will also be helpful if you make sure they don’t interfere with your employee’s day-to-day schedules. After all, field service staff have days that can differ wildly from one to the next, whether it’s due to working in the field, from home, or because of flexible contracts. But by providing a variety of ways to update and communicate with your staff, you can help everyone to feel more included.
Suggestion: One idea we’ve found success in at Commusoft is to create what we call “The Steering Committee”. Rather than it being a set team of senior leaders, we take an ever-changing mix of individuals from across the company and have them discuss new ideas and strategies.
Not only does this help our teams to mix and get to know one another (creating a greater sense of community), but it also gets people who wouldn’t usually be so involved with one another more invested in conversations that can impact the business. We’ve found this sort of “outside the box” thinking can give rise to new possibilities.
4. Provide valuable training opportunities
Creating a training plan shows your employees that you're invested in their success.
That's why, according to an article in The Balance, implementing new hire training is key to employee retention. If no one steps up to make an employee feel comfortable in their new role or to help them find their way, chances are they won't last long at that job.
Of course, when it comes to training, it should be with a “start as you mean to go on” mentality, especially in field services, where new technologies and tools - especially digital tools - frequently play a significant role in assisting an engineer in doing their job.
If it’s clear from day one that training employees is something you’re focusing on, you’re well on your way to creating a strong rapport, especially if they’re teaming up and being taken under a more experienced engineer’s wing. Once you earn that trust, now it’s time to put the effort in to maintain it.
After all, nothing will make staff feel like they’re stagnating in a role than just leaving them to rinse and repeat the same things over and over again. There’s a difference between being independent and having to always fend for themselves. Staying in tune with your staff’s needs and providing them with training as and when they need it will show you’re actively switched on to growing their skills and improving their capability in the role.
Whether it’s with a new update to the job management software you’re using, new appliances and best practices for installations, or soft skills that impact customer service, a variety of training should be offered so that staff feel energized, engaged, and continue to work at their best.
Try involving experienced staff in the training! Having them share knowledge will benefit new employees who get a headstart on establishing good working relationships, while seasoned employees get to feel like their knowledge is valuable.
5. Create a workplace that feels good to work in
A lot of what we’ve mentioned above will contribute to creating a workplace that feels good to work in. Inclusivity, knowledge, training: these all make for an engaging environment. Of course, it never hurts to have a bit of fun, too!
Employees will need to have a break, particularly between busy shifts, and especially if they’re carrying out detailed work that requires a lot of energy and focus. If they can’t unwind, they can’t refuel and energise themselves and that can seriously impact positive customer experiences. No one wants to work with an irritable engineer, right?
It’s important, then, to break up the days that are full of hard work, deadlines, and customer hassles. Integrating little extras into the work environment will keep your staff motivated and happy, and can save them from the brink of burnout after an especially difficult week.
Simple things make a big difference. Snacks, good coffee, and little surprises can be… well, surprisingly impactful. You might scoff at the idea that inexpensive perks—or no-cost surprises like a written thank you—will actually motivate your employees, but research shows it’s often the little things that make the greatest impact.
Showing gratitude, giving congratulations, and general appreciation are highly valued, often more than financial bonuses! They’re what make employees feel good about where and who they work with.
With all that in place, you’re far more likely not only to hire the right employees that fit your business but will create an environment that encourages them to stay. Not only that but by equipping them with the right tools, you'll help them to deliver great work and improve the way they interact with customers.
Speaking of which, have you see the latest resource we put together? The Customer Communication Toolkit is an excellent tool designed to help improve the way your entire team interacts with your customers.
From simple SMS reminders to more detailed emails, there are a variety of templates that you can use to instantly make your communications both look better and sound more professional. Download your free copy below: